As you may recall, this week’s theme is whiskies aged 25 years and above. I started with a 25 yo Ben Nevis on Monday (which I really liked) and the plan had been to add a year and do a 26 yo next: this Bunnahabhain 1987 released by Whiskybase for their Archives label in 2013. But as I was looking more closely at the bottle today while pouring a little more to taste while writing this fascinating preamble to the review proper (already recorded a while ago) I noticed an anomaly: the age is stated on the rear label as 26 years but the distillation date (11/1987) and bottling date (10/2013) suggest it is indeed a month short of being a true 26 yo. Now it’s possible that the error is not with the age statement but with those dates (the months might possibly be transposed) but here at Glen MyAnnoyingOpinions we believe in erring on the side of a lower not higher age statement. And so I’m noting it here as a 25 yo. Continue reading
At some point in the last few years Hampden, the great, idiosyncratic Jamaican rum distillery, got into the business of special annual releases. I believe this one, which came out in 2020, was the second. I’m not sure if one has yet been released in 2021. I believe this is a somewhat unusual Hampden in that it is a blend that contains mostly low-ester spirit. So less wild than usual? Let’s see.
Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, this is a Hampden: assertive, leading with bright notes of over-ripe banana, pineapple and lemon; herbal notes bring up the rear. What’s missing here is the usual heap of garbage rotting in the sun; well, it’s not completely missing but it’s not very loud. As it sits it picks up some light caramel and some toffee and quite a bit of diesel. The caramel expands with time and the diesel retreats. Okay, let’s add water: richer now as the caramel and toffee expand and are joined by brown sugar and the bananas get baked into banana bread. More conventional rum notes now but it’s quite lovely. Continue reading
It’s been a while since my last review of a rum; a year in fact (this Worthy Park). And it’s been even longer since my last review of a rum from Foursquare, the Barbados distillery. That was of the 11 yo release of the 2004 vintage, a bottle I liked a lot—enough in fact to buy several more of after that first encounter. Today I have for you a review of the release of the 2005 vintage. It’ll be the first of three rum reviews this week. Like the 2004 it was bottled at 59% abv and made without any addition of sugar or other additives. And it’s also a blend of pot still and column distilled rums and matured in ex-bourbon casks. It is, however, a year older. Will that make for a big difference in the profile? Let’s see.
Foursquare 12, 2005 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in sweet with caramel and molasses; just a hint of aniseed in the back. Some toffee too on the second sniff and the aniseed expands and picks up some herbal backing (sage). Gets sweeter as it sits (ripe plantain). Brighter with a few drops of water and there’s a bit of milk chocolate now along with an almost smoky note. Continue reading
Anyway, this is the second of this week’s Islay reviews (following Monday’s Bowmore). It’s from a refill bourbon hogshead which is usually a very good thing as far as Caol Ila is concerned. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2006 (58.9%; SMWS 53.328; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes out with pretty strong phenolic notes mixed in with lemon and salt and a bit of mezcal—which is to say it noses younger than its 13 years. With a bit more time sweeter coastal notes emerge—shells, uni. With a lot more time and air the phenols back off a little and there’s more citrus—lime peel, citronella. A few drops of water push the phenols back further and bring out some cream and some unexpected spice notes—is that cardamom? Continue reading
My last whisky review of August was of a Ledaig. Let’s get September off to a peaty start as well. We’ll stay with the Ls but move from the Isle of Mull to the Isle of Islay for my second review of an officially released Laphroaig in less than two months—and to think people say I review only esoteric whiskies…
Unlike July’s review of the 2009 release of the Triple Wood, this 16 yo is far more current. It was first released as a limited edition travel retail bottle as part of Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary but, as often happens these days, soon became part of Laphroaig’s regular stable. It’s made from whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks, I believe and bottled at 48%. As far as I can make out it goes for about $100 in most markets in the US—though I’ve seen references to a much higher price as well. $100 for a 16 yo at 48% is probably not too outrageous a price in this market (which is not to say it’s a reasonable price) but closer to the $140 I’ve seen mentioned here and there it becomes much harder to support no matter how good the whisky itself is. Speaking of which, let’s get to it. Continue reading
For the last whisky review of the month let’s stick with the SMWS and with peated whisky. We’ll move from Ardmore in the eastern Highlands, however, to Ledaig/Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. In case you’re wondering, the SMWS uses the same code for Tobermory and Ledaig (which is the peated variant of Tobermory). Ledaig is much more heavily peated than Ardmore and far closer in profile to the heavier, phenolic malts of Islay (which Mull is also closer to). Like the last Ledaig I reviewed, one of K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020, this one is from a refill hogshead. I rather liked that K&L cask, a nice break from most indie Ledaigs that hit the market from sherry casks. This one is 10 years younger, however. Let’s see how much of a difference that makes.
Ledaig 13, 2007 (56.6%; SMWS 42.50; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very clearly peated Tobermory as the smoke and phenols sit on a big yeasty, bready base. The yeasty tang begins to drift towards lemon as it sits and the smoke expands, getting even more phenolic. Water gives it more “weight”: deeper char and sweeter smoke (pipe tobacco). Continue reading
And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.
Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading
Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.
Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading
This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading
My second week of Loch Lomond reviews in 2021 started on Monday with an official release—a recent—though not the current—release of Loch Lomond 18. This followed a week of reviews in April that were all of current official releases: the new Loch Lomond 12, the Inchmurrin 12 and the Inchmoan 12. We move now to a couple of independent releases. First up, an Inchfad 15 bottled by Cooper’s Choice earlier this year. Inchfad, like Inchmoan and Croftengea, is one of Loch Lomond’s peated brands. For all I know, there are others. I am not really sure what the production differences between these peated brands are and will leave it to someone more informed to explain it to us in the comments if they’re willing. I will say that peated Loch Lomond can be a truly wonderful thing. This on account of the underlying spirit which is rather fruity. Peat, fruit and bourbon casks: this is in theory a good combination. Let’s see if it paid off here. Continue reading
Here is a review of the only bottle of very old whisky I have ever owned and very likely will ever own. By “very old” I don’t mean length of maturation but era of distillation. As per people who know far more than me about this sort of thing, this bottle of White Horse was released sometime between the mid-1950s and very early 1960s and probably in the late 1950s. I don’t know how this provenance is established and am only very slightly interested. In the EU bottles like this one circulate regularly–or did anyhow—at auction. How did I come into possession of this bottle, living in the US? Well, about five years ago a friend visiting in Israel emailed me saying he’d come across this bottle at his in-laws’ home and asking if it might be worth anything at auction. I made some inquiries and told him what the likely range of prices might be. It then transpired that in transporting the bottle from Israel to Berlin—his next stop—there had been some leakage resulting in the label coming a bit loose. All of this, I advised him, would probably drive the auction price down. His own interest in pursuing the auction market had dimmed at this point and he ended up offering it to me at the low end of the auction prices I’d initially given him—with a further discount once even more of the whisky leaked on its way to the US in his suitcase. I then wrapped the the spring cap up tightly and, as is my wont, forgot about it for a few years. I think the initial plan had been to save it for an unspecified special occasion. As I’ve noted before, during the pandemic I revised my definition of “special occasions” to now include almost any given day. And so about two months ago I decided to open it to mark the end of term. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
This week’s reviews are all of blends of one kind of the other. Monday featured the Campbeltown cask from the Edinburgh Cadenhead store from April 2014. That one was almost certainly all malt whisky, almost certainly all Springbank. But in the absence of specific information we will consider it a blended malt whisky. Today’s whisky is the the type of blend we think of more usually when we think of blended whisky: a blend of malt and grain. But it’s no easier to locate now than that one-off Campbeltown cask. This is a 25 yo from a defunct brand named Ambassador and I know very little about it. The person I acquired the sample from pointed me to this entry on Whiskybase. There is no bottling year listed there but another entry for an identical label indicates it was probably a 1970s bottling—so the whisky in it was distilled in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Apparently Ambassador once contained malt from Scapa and Glen Scotia though I’m not sure if this was still the case for 1970s releases. For more information on the brand I will direct you to Michael K’s review of an Ambassador 25. His review is not of this release though but of a much older bottle from either the 1940s or 1950. Okay, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Clynelish Week began with a 23 yo second-fill Oloroso butt bottled by Single Cask Nation and continued with a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory Vintage. Here now to close it out is a 17 yo bourbon cask bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Despite my usual preferences I liked the second-fill butt more than the refill sherry butt. Where will this bourbon cask fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 17, 1997 (55.2%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 4050; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet fruit off the top (peach, nectarine) along with some oak and some honeycomb. As it sits there’s more lemon (candied) at first and then some malt. With time there’s quite a bit of toasted oak. The fruit expands and gets quite a bit muskier with several drops of water. Continue reading
Clynelish week began on Monday with a 23 yo second-fill oloroso butt bottled by the American outfit, Single Cask Nation. That was just excellent. Here now is a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Given my stated cask preferences for Clynelish—ex-bourbon and refill sherry over heavier sherry influence—you might expect I’d be likely to like this one even more. But individual casks easily buck trends/preferences. I liked that 23 yo quite a bit more than another Signatory-bottled Clynelish 21, 1995 that I reviewed a few years ago. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 21, 1995 (51.2%; Signatory; refill sherry butt 8688; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very similar to the 23 yo with leafy notes mixed in with citrus (lemon, makrut lime) and salt. Ginger shows up on the second sniff along with malt and this too has a big Ben Nevis crossover going on. Gunpowder on the third sniff and then some sweet fruit begins to poke out as it sits (peach). Water brightens it up and pushes back the leafy notes; it does also emphasize the (savoury) gunpowder. Continue reading
If you are the kind of person who purchases bottles from whisky auctions—I’m not any more—this is the kind of bottle that you might be interested in but then be inclined to pass on. There’s not much information, if any, out there on it and the people who can usually be relied on to have passed judgment on bottles like this haven’t done so. But then you remind yourself it’s a Caol Ila from 1980 and from a bourbon cask—and that it was bottled by Cadenhead doesn’t hurt—and you decide to take the not ruinously expensive but not cheap plunge. Then years later you finally open it and pour yourself some with more than a little bit of apprehension. Why are you, I mean I going on in the second person like this? Anyway, I am the person previously described—I came across this at an auction and eventually decided to buy it—and secured it without it getting bid up. I’ve now opened it—a couple of weeks ago now—and here finally are my notes. Continue reading
Caol Ila week began with a sherry butt-finished 10 yo bottled by Sovereign (another of the Laing labels) for K&L in California. I really liked that one. Here now is an 11 yo. This is a bourbon hogshead and was bottled by a relatively new outfit named The Whisky Jury who have not put out so very many casks. I don’t really know anything about them or what the reputation of their releases is but Caol Ila + bourbon hogshead is almost always a recipe for goodness. Let’s hope this doesn’t let me down.
Caol Ila 11, 2008 (53.1%; The Whisky Jury; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A bit closed as I pour but opens up quickly to reveal mineral peat, loads of seashells plus brine and kelp (a whole coastline’s worth), citronella and dettol. Some vegetal notes on the second sniff along with some machine oil and shoe polish. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water emphasize the citronella and bring out some white pepper. Continue reading
After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.
Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream. Continue reading
Sherry Cask Week comes to an end with this 21 yo Mortlach distilled in 1990 and bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago in 2012. Yes, I’ve sat on this bottle for almost 10 years, and no, I cannot begin to tell you why. Back in the day, Binny’s had one of the best cask exclusive programs in the US, if not the very best. Brett Pontoni and his team selected casks of a good quality and sold them for good prices without too much hoopla. Those days are long gone as no one seemingly is able to find good casks at good prices anymore and some don’t even seem able to reliably find acceptable casks at good prices. Hopefully the wheel will turn sometime soon. It’s sad to think of how much harder it is now for someone just entering the hobby to truly experience the full range of single malt whisky than it was a decade ago. Will the industry at some point price itself into a dead-end and have to retrench? Or will marketing win out? When you look at what is happening on social media with not just single malt whisky but also bourbon (and increasingly brandy), it seems hard to be hopeful that sanity will return anytime soon. The producers and marketers have whipped customers into a frenzy and all too many people seem excited to pay high prices for marginal bottles. Anyway, let’s go back to 2012 when this 21 yo sherry cask Mortlach cost $99. Continue reading